Bushman royal marriage
J. M. Orpen: “A glimpse into the mythology of the maluti Bushmen.” Cape Monthly Magazine: 9 july 1874, 139-156
When Orpen collected his stories from a Bushman source he was frustrated because they seemed to him fragmented . He strung together separate episodes to ‘restore’ what he presumed was their original sequence. But, in Bushman culture, the episodes were remembered independently. Episodes might be selected and linked differently on each telling. A defined linear sequence of episodes is a convention developed in more elaborate societies (for example, when oral traditions became written).
Similarly, when a person recounts a dream, he or she may impose sequence upon the dream’s episodes. The dreamer remembers extra parts and says ‘It’s all mixed up, but while I was in the house … ‘ When an oral fairy story is recorded verbatim this process of belated remembering and interpolation is sometimes captured in the record.
Psychological growth also occurs as a series of separate episodes or steps which are not obviously linked except, perhaps, in analysis. A therapist traces an overall arc in development though development itself does not occur as a linear process.
The forgoing does not mean that a story’s episodes are not implicitly linked, either temporally or by cause-and-effect. In some Bushman episodes Qwanciqutshaa was single, in others married. The episode of Qwanciqutshaa’s flight from, and capture by, his bride describes how he became married. Another episode describes the baboon’s attempt to steal Qwanciqutshaa’s bride before Qwanciqutshaa married her. Other men also attempted to marry Qwanciqutshaa’s bride but she refused. Other girls attempted to marry Qwanciqutshaa but he dismissed them. Another episode describes Qwanciqutshaa’s hunting success after he was married.
While Bushman myth tended not to specify the sequence of these episodes, sequence was implicit since Bushmen knew it in their own lives (first they were single, then pursued by a girl, then married, then married life followed.)
Sometimes sequence was explicit, for example, (see below) when young men wanted to marry the girl she refused: “No, I love none but Qwanciqutshaa, who saved me from the baboon.” Did Bushmen speak of love in this way, or did Orpen add the line? The first part of her sentence sounds suspiciously ninteenth century. Later she used the same words in the context of loving actions which were convincingly archaic but, again, the words might be an interpolation.)
In order to trace an overall arc, my interpretation follows the sequence Orpen assumed. Thus the interpretation had already begun when Orpen transcribed this story. Perhaps I am imposing too much but any interpretation involves the imposition of order upon less ordered components. The best we can do is make explicit our assumptions.
You must decide for yourself whether the text, as assembled here, convinces you. Does each episode belong? Is the story coherent?
The royal marriage
My main assumption is supported by repeated internal evidence. I assume, as did Freud and Jung, that a ritual of outer life – singlehood, falling in love, wedding, or life in partnership – is appropriated to form an image of a mysterious inner development which (development) would otherwise be impossible to apprehend. The outer ritual, in turn, is numinous partly because it represents that mystery.
I argue that this tale explores a subtle psychological issue, the royal marriage, which, if realized, enlivens the personality. Realization takes different forms.
The royal marriage is the basis of romantic love. At a deep level, it is the basis of all life-enhancing relationship: entities which are autonomous, truly ‘other’, bond in unpredictable ways to form a new, mysterious level of unity.
The royal marriage is also the basis of creative work. In creativity the consciousness of the creator (who is identified with either the masculine or the feminine) relates to the unconscious which often appears as a figure of the opposite gender. Through this relationship new contents from the unconscious are embodied in a creative product.
Cézanne and the tradition of painting were another example of the royal marriage. The two (the man and painting) were obviously ‘other’ but they bonded to produce a mysterious, unpredictable body of work. Cézanne also bonded with Mont Saint Victoire, a motif which inspired him incessantly.
In order to discuss the royal marriage psychologically it is necessary to use images. The thing itself is a mystery which cannot be fully represented by words and logic.
An example is the yin-yang symbol, two comma-shaped figures combined, top-to-tail, to form a disk.
Diagram of the Supreme Ultimate.
From the Compendium of Diagrams (detail), 1623 Zhang Huang (1527-1608) Woodblock-printed book; ink on paper
Photo: © The University of Chicago Library, East Asian Collection
In the alchemical image of the coniunctio a king and a queen meet naked in a pool and make love. A king and a queen retain separate authority, continue to be separate individuals, even when they are lovers.
Rosarium philosophorum, published around 1550.
Online source: http://www.tumblr.com/search/The%20Rosary%20of%20the%20Philosophers
The present Bushman tale suggests that the royal marriage is ancient. In their traditional culture, Bushmen have used identical tools for the last 44,000 years, which means that their myths may also be that old. Behaviorally–modern humans first appeared about 50,000 years ago. Humans differ from other animals in part by their capacity for complex relationship. The royal marriage is a symbol of such relationship.
Qwanciqutshaa, the chief, used to live alone. He had no wife, for the women would not have him.
A hero or heroine’s solitude is a universal motif in mythology. Because he lived alone Qwanciqutshaa was likely to be a spiritual chief, a role model for inner development. He could not have a normal marriage – was not contained by that collective ritual – and was therefore vulnerable to the unconscious, to the inner marriage. He would therefore develop a more conscious relationship with the anima, the feminine archetype.
A man sent a number of little boys to get sticks for the women to dig ants’ eggs. One of the women grumbled, saying the stick she received was crooked and those of the others were straight.
The woman also is alone in receiving a crooked stick: unlike the others, she is not contained by the collective. Again her aloneness implies inner communion. (Such repetitions – different images which suggest the same meaning – are crucial for interpretation: like a Rossetta stone they provide internal, objective evidence that our interpretation is on track.)
Crooked stick, crooked baboon tail, crooked penis. The crooked stick suggests that the woman would be visited by the animus, the masculine archetype. Since it is unconscious, the animus is not straightforward: when an archetype is unconscious its effects are indirect and often destructive.
That night she [the woman] dreamed that a baboon came to take for his own wife a young girl who had refused Qwanciqutshaa.
In the woman’s dream the young girl had refused marriage and was also alone, another repetition which suggests that the young girl too, like Qwanciqutshaa, would find an inner marriage.
We observe emperically, again and again, that dreams behave as if they come from an omniscient center – which Jung called the Self – which guides the dreamer towards individuation. Individuation can be defined as developing a conscious relationship with the unconscious, through symbolic thinking, such that one’s conscious life is more reliably informed by individual guidance from the unconscious. Practicing a religion or following a guru also provides guidance from the unconscious, but such guidance is collective (not specifically for one person) rather than individual.
That the woman’s knowledge came in a dream is yet another repetition which further confirms that the story is about inner development.
The device of two feminine figures, the woman who had the dream and the young girl, is yet another repetition which confirms inner development. The two figures discriminate the qualities required: first being receptive to the dream, taking its message seriously (this requires wisdom and maturity), then being young, vulnerable, and ready for marriage.
As von Franz pointed out, the characters in a fairy tale all represent not people, but archetypes. The purpose of the tale is to explore how archetypes interact. Since these interactions are manifest in a person’s life, a fairytale can help a person to become more conscious of an archetypal dynamic which he or she is living out. When a person is more conscious then he or she has more freedom of choice and, consequently, the outcome can be more constructive.
We tend to speak of Qwanciqutshaa, the baboon, the dreamer, and the young girl as though they were people but, more accurately, they represent animus and anima. Qwanciqutshaa is a more evolved aspect of the animus, the baboon is more primitive. Jung described the royal marriage as the marriage of animus and anima.
First the baboon tried to trap the young girl in a marriage which could only be physical: this represents possession by a primitive aspect of the animus.
Next day, as she [the woman who had the dream] was digging alone, the baboon came to her in a rage (it had been present and heard her observation about the stick, and thought she was mocking at the crookedness of its tail), and it said “Why did you curse me?” and it threw stones at her …
The baboon had ideas of reference (others were talking about him), fell into a rage, and threw stones. It did not relate but acted out. These are repetitions which confirm that the baboon represents unconscious possession.
… and she [the woman] ran home and told the young girl of her dream and that it was coming true, and told her [the young girl] to escape to Qwanciqutshaa.
Sank into the ground
The [young] girl sank into the ground and came up at another place, and sank again. She sank three times  and then came up and went to Qwanciqutshaa’s place.
She was a shaman who traveled between worlds. Three times she regressed (died) into the earth and was reborn. Death and rebirth represent a cycle of transformation, the death of an old psychological organization which makes it possible for new organization to emerge. That part of herself which had refused Qwanciqutshaa was transformed. He was narcissistically ungratifying in some way: perhaps he was too old or ugly or smelt bad? Young people have to transform some narcissism if they are to chose a partner whom they can marry at the level of soul.
In travelling up and down between worlds the girl moved like a snake. In melanesian legend there is also a story of a snake-woman who sank into the earth to escape one husband and re-emerged elsewhere to marry another.
Our myth was recorded in the 19th century from Bushmen whose traditional tools were identical to those of their ancestors 44,000 years previously. The identity of their tools proves that Bushman culture was very similar in the 19th century and 44,000 years earlier.
Genetic evidence proves that early behaviorally-modern humans migrated by a coastal route, 50-60,000 years ago, from east Africa via southern India to New Guinea, where they became the Melanesians, and then to Australia. It seems likely that this specific, idiosyncratic image – a young woman escaped a husband/suitor by sinking into the earth like a snake and emerged to find a new husband – is very old and was carried by the early migrants to Melanesia. The click languages may also have been transmitted by those migrations since they have been found only in African Bushmen and in some Australian Aborigines.
Fear of the baboon
Qwanciqutshaa had killed a red rhebok and was skinning it when he saw his elands running about and wondered what had startled them . He left the meat and took the skin and went home, and asked why she came.
Elands suggest bodily instinct because, as grazing animals, they are relatively unintelligent. The young girl’s work on herself – her death and rebirth transformations – had aroused her instincts and she was ready to meet her future husband. Unlike the elands, her instinct was both physical and soulful because we are attracted to a person with whom, we sense or imagine, we will connect at a psychological level. That Qwanciqutshaa wondered what had startled the elands shows that he was seeking to understand the attraction, that is, seeking consciousness.
She said she was frightened of the baboon. He told her to fetch water to wash the blood off his hand …
That Qwancitqutshaa was butchering a rhebok and sent the girl for water to wash the blood off his hand is a repetition of the idea that bodily instinct (meat, blood, physical attraction) was being transformed by feeling (water) into new consciousness.
… and she went, and came running back in a fright, and spilt some on Qwanciqutshaa. He said, “What is the reason of this?” She said, “It is fright at the baboon.” He said, “Why are you frightened; he is your husband, and comes from your place?” She said, “No, I have run to you for fear of him.” Then he put her up on his head and hid her in his hair.
In this conversation they began to develop an individual, personal connection. He asked her about her feelings and he began to know her better with her reply. (There is a similar encounter in a Polynesian myth in which a royal marriage begins with a personal conversation. In the Polynesian story the woman was more empowered and the couple’s conversation was more playful and flirtatious.)
In this African story Qwanciqutshaa protected the young girl with his mind (his hair) which was the seat of his more evolved phallic power: the baboon could only be physical. The girl was making distinctions between different aspects of the animus. (In another Polynesian myth a young woman fled her mother, who embodied archaic phallic power, and was protected by a chief whose abundant hair symbolized his strong mind.)
The baboon had in the meantime come to the people she had left, and asked for her, and they said they did not know where she was; but he smelt where she had gone down into the ground, and he pursued, scenting her at each place, and when he came towards Qwanciqutshaa the elands started and ran about and gazed at him.
Again instincts were aroused (the baboon’s sense of smell, the elands’ gaze). As we evolve from relating physically to relating soulfully and spiritually the instincts are explored and better understood for what they symbolize.
He came up to Qwanciqutshaa with his keeries, saying, “Where is my wife?” Qwanciqutshaa said, “I have no wife of yours.” It flew at Qwanciqutshaa, and fought him, but Qwanciqutshaa got it down and struck it through with its own keerie …
They were fighting with spears which suggests that the animus was refining itself by means of its discriminating power.
… and Qwanciqutshaa banished it to the mountains, saying, “Go, eat scorpions and roots as a baboon should,” and it went screaming away; and the screams were heard by the women at the place it came from and all the baboons were banished.
The conflict between body animus and head animus reached its climax and the body was relegated to eating scorpions and roots. The chief led the whole tribe in this cultural development. Symbolically, the inner change was pervasive.
And Qwanciqutshaa killed an eland …
The killing of the eland means, once again, that unconscious energy was sacrificed and incorporated into consciousness. The marriage of anima and animus deepens/expands consciousness.
… purified himself as the baboon had defiled him, and he told the girl to go home and tell the people he was alive.
Purifying after being defiled is another repetition which helps to confirm that the animus was becoming more conscious. The anima, which was also becoming more conscious, carried the message back to the collective.
The young men
But the young men wanted to marry this girl, and she said, “No, I love none but Qwanciqutshaa, who saved me from the baboon.”
The conscious marriage of anima and animus is part of individuation: it aroused fierce resistance from the collective whose norms were threatened. The collective would have confined the girl to traditional marriage.
So they hated Qwanciqutshaa; and when he had killed a red rhebok and put meat on the fire to roast, those young men took fat from a snake they had killed and dropped it on the meat, and when he cut a piece and put it in his mouth, it fell out; and he cut another, and it fell out; and the third time it fell out, and the blood gushed from his nose.
The snake fat was poison. So is individuation because it disrupts the old order to make room for a new individual. The collective was using the poison of individuation in an attempt to reverse it’s course.
We see this, for example, in group therapy when a group caught in resistance colludes to defend against individuation. Psychological “ideas” are then used to rationalize destructive or. For example the group may gang up to discredit a member who, acting as whistle-blower, points out their collusion.
Qwanciqutshaa had been “killed” and would be reborn, like the girl who also went into the underworld. Their parallel transformations confirm that this story is about the unfolding of an archetypal process.
So he took all his things, his weapons, and clothes, and threw them into the sky ….
Weapons and cloths are products of collective consciousness, tools fashioned out of collective knowledge and skills. He returned them to the air (the realm of ideas and knowledge) so that he could enter the underworld. Because collective consciousness resists individuation he fled into the unconscious. Individuation develops individual consciousness.
The young women
… and he threw himself into the river. And there were villages down there and young women, and they wanted to catch Qwanciqutshaa; but he turned into a snake and said: “No it is through women I was killed,” and he eluded and threatened them, and they all ran away.
Young men dominated the above ground world while young women dominated the underworld: collective consciousness is yang (light) while the unconscious is yin (dark).
Like the girl, Qwanciqutshaa became a snake in the underworld. His individuation was then opposed by another collective, this time in the unconscious. The symmetry shows that individuation is contained neither by consciousness nor by the unconscious but requires a snakelike movement back and forth between the two: for individuation, the two realms must relate to each other.
The young girl captures him
The only girl that remained was the girl he had saved, and she made a hut and went and picked things and made canna  and put pieces in a row from the river bank to the hut.
Bushmen chewed the fermented canna root to relieve thirst and for its intoxicating effect. The girl was giving him a drug which changes consciousness in order to seduce him. Another repetion, more evidence that this story is about changing consciousness.
This girl’s hut was above-ground but near the river bank. A river undulates like a snake while the bank is sometimes dry and sometimes flooded. This image confirms that the marriage of anima and animus belongs to the liminal world between consciousness and the unconscious.
Regular marriage is a human manifestation of this archetype, which is one reason why it is so confusing: is marriage an objective union for practical purposes or is it romantic, a renewal of relationship with the unconscious?
And the snake came out and ate up the charms, and went back into the water, and the next day she did the same, and that night he came and went to the hut and took a mat and went up to the sky and got his kaross and came down and slept on the mat.
The snake glided easily between underwater, above ground, and the sky. Individuation integrates different psychological realms. The feminine lured the chief into relationship, an archetypal seduction often seen in human courtship.
And when the girl saw he had been there she placed charms again, and lay in wait, and the snake came out of the water and raised his head, and looked warily and suspiciously round, and then he glided out of the snake’s skin and walked, picking up the charmed food, to the hut …
He also glided easily between human- and snake-form. Individuation leads to psychological freedom, less fixation in a role.
… and when he was asleep she went in and seized him and quickly forced more charms into his mouth, and he struggled to escape, but she held him fast, and he was exhausted and trembled, and said “Why do you hold me, you who caused my death?”
And she said, “Though I was the cause, it was not my fault, for I loved you, and none but you!” and she smothered him in the kaross, and ran to the skin and sprinkled it with canna and burnt it, and they remained there three days.
By holding him with her love and by forcing the cana into his mouth, she made the animus manifest in a more human form. This is like Jacob wrestling with the angel …..
Jacob Wrestling with the Angel
…. or like the crucifixion (the suffering by which god took mortal form)….
Crucifixion and Last Judgement. Jan van Eyck. Detail. Probably a late work, early 1430s, finished after his death.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
…. or like Janet holding Tam Lin until he became a “naked knight”. We also do this when we wrestle with a dream, trying to understand it and to incorporate its meaning.
The girl was binding Qwanciqutshaa in marriage. Marriage resembles crucifixion or dream interpretation: a new psychological possibility (the royal marriage) begins to incarnate when a couple commit to each other.
The elands came alive again
And Qwanciqutshaa killed an eland and purified himself and his wife, and told her to grind canna, and she did so, and he sprinkled it on the ground, and all the elands that had died became alive again, and some came in with assegais sticking in them, which had been struck by those people who had wanted to kill him.
Qwanciqutshaa was identified with the elands (see below) .
And he took out the assegais, a whole bundle, and they remained in his place; …
The royal marriage restores life in the land: this means that the whole personality is renewed.
A protected place
… and it was a place enclosed with hills and precipices, and there was one pass, and it was constantly filled with a freezingly cold mist, so that none could pass through it  …
A freezingly cold mist is like death; to pass through it is a shamanistic passage. The renewal of the personality requires the death of the old organization and the birth a new one.
… and those men all remained outside, and they ate sticks at last, and died of hunger.
But his brother (or her brother), in chasing an eland he had wounded, pursued it closely through that mist, and Qwanciqutshaa saw the elands running about, frightened at that wounded eland and the assegai that was sticking in it, and he came out and saw his brother, and he [his brother] said, “Oh! my brother I have been injured; you see now where I am.”
It was the eland who was wounded. Qwanciqutshaa held the eland as his brother . The confusion in this passage reflects the hunter’s identification with his game. Qwanciqutshaa is, like the eland, an archetype, a denizen of the unconscious.
And the next morning he killed an eland for his brother, and he told him to go back and call his mother and his friends, and he did so, and when they came they told him how the other people had died of hunger outside; and they stayed with him, and the place smelt of meat.
Only in the special highland geography, guarded by freezing mist, could their people benefit from the royal marriage. The royal marriage symbolizes a high level of psychological development. Those who do not have access to it must live, or die, in psychological poverty.
Notes by J.D. Lewis-Williams
Rock Art Research Institute, GAES, University of the Witwatersrand, PO Wits, 2050 South Africa; firstname.lastname@example.org
 Passage between cosmological levels is still more clearly evident in what followed. Cagn “descended into the ground and came up again, and he did this three times”. This is a common form of San (and other) shamanic travel. Kxao Giraffe, an old Ju|’hoan shaman, related how his ‘protector’, the giraffe, told him that he would enter the earth: “That I would travel far through the earth and then emerge at another place.” Water facilitated his underground travel: “We travelled until we came to a wide body of water. It was a river. He took me to the river. The two halves of the river lay to either side of us, one to the left and one to the right” (Biesele 1993: 71). Then he rose to the upper level of the cosmos: “When we emerged, we began to climb the thread—it was the thread of the sky” (Biesele 1993: 72) [J. D. Lewis-Williams, ibid.]
 This antelope was |Kaggen’s favourite creature. Although the trickster-deity is not explicitly mentioned in the story, it is necessary to know something about his relationship with the eland. A series of |Xam myths tells how he created the first eland in a waterhole, an opening between the levels of San cosmology, and fed it on honey, that cherished food imbued with potency. As it grew in size, he anointed its flanks with honey and water. To |Kaggen’s great distress, the eland was illicitly killed: “Then he wept; tears fell from his eyes, because he did not see the Eland” (Bleek 1924: 2–9). Diä!kwain, one of Bleek and Lloyd’s |Xam informants, explained |Kaggen’s continuing affection for the eland: “The Mantis does not love us, if we kill an Eland. … [T]he Hartebeest was the one whom he made after the death of his Eland. That is why he did not love the Eland and the Hartebeest a little, he loved them dearly, for he made his heart of the Eland and the Hartebeest” (Bleek 1924: 12). Understandably, |Kaggen was constantly with the eland. The |Xam said that he sat “between the Eland’s horns” and, by various ruses, tried to trick hunters so that the eland could escape (Bleek 1924: 11; 1932: 233–40).
The eland was, and still is, believed to have more potency than any other animal (Lewis-Williams 1981). The Ju|’hoan San like to perform a trance dance next to the carcass of an eland so that they can harness its released potency. Indeed, the Ju|’hoan respect word for eland is tcheni, ‘dance’ (Lewis-Williams 1981: 63). As they pull back the skin of a dead eland, a sweet odour arises: it is taken to be a vehicle for the eland’s potency. In these beliefs, we have an explanation of Qing’s opening statement: “And Qwanciqutshaa killed an eland and purified himself and his wife.” Those who kill an eland run the risk of offending Cagn and must observe certain customs to avoid the suffering that could follow. [J. D. Lewis-Williams, ibid.]
 The Canna-root, chewed by Bushmen and Hottentots: “The Hottentots come far and near to fetch this shrub, with the root, leaves and all, which they beat together and afterwards twist them up like pigtail tobacco; after which they let the mass ferment and keep it by them for chewing, especially when they are thirsty. If it be chewed immediately after fermenting it intoxicates.” [A. W. Buckland quoting C.P. Thunberg from his contribution to A General Collection of the Best and Most Interesting Voyages and Travels in All Parts of the World, 17 Volumes, ed. John Pinkerton: London, 1808-14. Referenced in The Uncoiling Python by Harold Scheub]
 Lewis-Williams  has shown that this description refers to a mountainous area which had special meaning:
The mise en scène of these events is significant. It shows how the tiered San cosmos can be superimposed on a specific landscape setting, here the soaring Maloti and Drakensberg mountains. Qing said that Qwanciqutshaa lived in “a place enclosed with hills and precipices, and there was one pass, and it was constantly filled with a freezingly cold mist, so that none could pass through it”. For those who know these mountains, Qing’s words are evocative. The land rises above undulating KwaZulu-Natal Midlands to what is known as the Little ‘Berg (abbreviation of ‘Drakensberg’), a series of massive spurs characterized by sandstone cliffs and rock shelters (Fig. 2). Above them, the High ‘Berg rises steeply to as much as 11 000 feet. Beyond the peaks of the summit, the Maloti mountains extend, range after range, into what is now Lesotho. San rock paintings are concentrated in the rock shelters of the Little ‘Berg; there are far fewer paintings in the Midlands.
In the Qwanciqutshaa myth, the high mountains are separated from the lower lands by one pass, just as access through the mountains is still today achieved by only a few steep-sided, narrow passes. Often the passes are filled with mist. For the Maloti San, !khwa thus stood between levels of the mountainous cosmos, just as waterholes stood between the cosmological levels that the |Xam San conceived on the open, semi-arid plains where they lived.
The image of Qwanciqutshaa’s dwelling high in the mountains and protected by a barrier of freezingly cold mist brings to mind the rock shelters that archaeologists believe the San occupied seasonally (Vinnicombe 1976). They are not at the very summit of the mountains, where the capping basalt has few caves, but rather in the middle reaches where erosion under the resistant Clarens Formation sandstone creates large rock shelters. They are often enveloped in mist and thus situated at a level of transition. Significantly, it was to such an intermediary area that Cagn carried the first eland calf  that he created: he “took it to a secluded kloof enclosed by hills and precipices, and left it to grow there” (Orpen 1874: 4). As I have mentioned, in the |Xam versions of this myth |Kaggen nurtures the eland calf in an equivalent waterhole (Bleek 1924: 25).
Later, after Cagn’s first eland had been killed, he and his wife churned eland blood together with “the fat from the heart” and “produced multitudes of elands, and the earth was covered with them” (Orpen 1874: 4).
Like Cagn, Qwanciqutshaa himself had a herd of eland (Orpen 1874: 6–7). They were a kind of alarm system for him: when he saw them running wildly about, he knew that trouble was brewing. These mystical herds were all concentrations of potency in the upper level of the tiered San cosmos, even as eland herds still amalgamate at the beginning of the summer rains to graze on the new, sweet grass that springs up in the high reaches of the mountains. At this time, too, small, scattered San winter bands amalgamated (Carter 1970; Vinnicombe 1976). [J. D. Lewis-Williams, ibid.]